Category Archives: Technology

Solving Nigerian Seed-Yam Problems using Aeroponics

In Nigeria yam is ‘gold

Yam is central to the culture of many Nigerian societies. Yam is so important that it has its own festival – the New Yam Festival. It is used as marriage dowries and a measure of a household’s social standing, Recently, Nigeria officially started exporting yam.

Yam is Nigeria’s most important cash crop worth nearly $14 billion annually; one-third of Nigerians, nearly 60 million people depend on yams as a main source of income; Yam is Nigeria’s no. 1 source of dietary calories, according to Tim McDonnell, a Fulbright-National Geographic Fellow and multimedia journalist covering environmental issues in sub-Saharan Africa, in an article published in NPR

But according to the United Nations, Nigeria’s yam yield has dropping in the past few years and has presently dropped to its lowest level in two decades, even though the area of land under cultivation is rapidly rising.

What could be the cause?

“For a large number of farmers, seed yam is a big problem,” said Robert Aseidu, West Africa research director for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), a non-profit research organization based in Nigeria. “It’s only now that we’re seeing how big a problem this could become.”

A “seed yam” is yam meant to be planted and not eaten. Tim McDonnell explained that due to genetic factors and many years of a flawed farm practice, most of these seed yams have disease. Yam farmers traditionally keep back the measlier yams and about a third of their harvest for planting the following season, and since yams are clonal, meaning each tuber is genetically identical to its ‘parent’, farmers are essentially planting the same yam over and over again, with none of the routine genetic mutation that typically occurs between generations to help ward off pests and diseases.

“When you have this recycling over so many years, then they keep accumulating pests and diseases, and then productivity keeps reducing until you get to a stage where it’s no [longer] economical to plant anything,” says Beatrice Aighewi, a yam specialist at International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

The need for disease free seed yams

The Nigerian Minister of Agriculture, tweeted, “On June 29, 2017, a total of 72 metric tons of yam will leave the shores of Nigeria to Europe/US, heralding a new dawn in our food exports.” And added that “according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, Nigeria accounts for 61% of yam production in the world.” This government’s yam export promotion will certainly lead to more exportation and domestic scarcity if supply is not increase accordingly.

Seed yams from Aeroponics

Some scientists have seen the urgent need and high demand for seed yams in the country and are using the technology called Aeroponics to meet this need. Beatrice Aighewi and Ogbole Samson are some of IITA trained specialists who are taking advantage of the emerging market.

Beatrice opened an Agritech business a few years ago. She sources good seed yams from around the country and reproduces them in her field using aeroponics. She also produces high-yielding and disease-resistant yam variety, while Samson trains farmers, set-up and help them maintain aeroponics systems for yam production on a small and large-scale.

Business opportunity

Aighewi says the solution to Nigeria’s seed yam crisis is large-scale Aeroponic farms for seed yam production adding that, there is not a single commercial producer of seed yam in the whole country.

Nigerian entrepreneurs should take advantage of Aeroponics technology and the increasing demand for disease-free seed yams by farmers. This is a business opportunity with a big Return on investment potential.

How Entrepreneurs Can Pioneer a Sustainable Electric Car Industry in Africa

While Africa is still struggling to have stable electricity, build crude oil refineries and build Assembling-plants for petrol-powered cars, a Tesla electric car recently made a record 1078 km distance on a single charge. Some people still think Electric cars are the future but the truth is that we are already in the era of electric cars. Petrol powered cars are already becoming obsolete.

Electric Car Revolution

There is an electric-car revolution currently going on in the Scandinavian. Norway which is blessed with an enormous oil reserve, has over 100,000 electric cars, while Sweden has over 10,000. Finland’s 1,039-number even comes in below Estonia, where there are already about 1,200 electric cars and vans on the road. Finland has posted a goal: to have 250,000 electric vehicles on the road by the year 2030.

In November of 2016, there were 540,000 electric cars on the road in the USA. According to Forbes, in 2016 alone, 507,000 electric cars were sold in China, a 53% increase from 2015. Meanwhile, 222,200 units were sold in Europe, a 14% increase; and 157,130 units were sold in the United States, a 36% increase from the prior year.

Knowing all these: that Electric vehicles could represent 40% of auto sales and 30% of the global car parc in 20 years, knowing this could be disruptive to petroleum demand — a main source of revenue of African power houses like Nigeria and Angola, by 2030. I am forced to ask “How can Africa countries be part of this development?”

Electric Cars in Africa

In Africa, according to IEA publication South Africa is the only county that has made a significant advancement in the use of electric cars. The stock of electric cars in the country climbed from 30 all-electric cars in 2013 to about 50 in 2013, and as of December 2015, there were about 290 plug-in electric cars registered, consisting of 170 all-electric cars and 120 plug-in hybrids. All the plug-in hybrids were registered in 2015 and according to EVsales, BMW South Africa has plans to introduce electric car sales totaled 80 units during the first three months of 2016.

It’s obvious Africa is being left behind again due to lack of foresight of its governments. Most countries if not all have government incentives or subsidies to promote electric cars but Africa countries do not. African entrepreneurs have to come to the rescue – incentive or no incentive. Most of them have succeeded in business without any help from the government and can pioneer a rapid growth electric car industry in Africa.

The Concept is Simple

Two major trends in energy usage that are expected for future smart grids are: Large-scale decentralized renewable energy production through solar energy system. Emergence of battery electric vehicles as the future mode of transport.

Firstly, the use of renewable energy sources such as solar energy is accessible to a wider audience because of the falling cost of solar energy panels. Industrial sites and office buildings harbour a great potential for solar energy panels with their large surface on flat roofs. Examples include warehouses, industrial buildings, universities, factories, etc. This potential when exploited will enable African countries bypass their inefficient national grid and develop a future smart grid system of renewable energy.

Africa experience good amount of sun shine throughout the year, meaning we can generate enough solar power to charge the batteries of an electric car throughout the year so two sustainable business types can be built around this natural resource: the business of installation of solar-powered charging ports in the home of electric cars owners as they buy their car, and the business of building and running car parks with charging pots powered by solar panels around factories and office building where owners of electric cars can park and charge their cars while at work. An entrepreneur can also install charging ports in the car parks of public, government or private building too. All that is needed is a good deal with the owners of the properties.

So entrepreneurs, Africa needs you to lead this ‘leapfrogging’ or ‘disrupting’ or whatever you want to call it. Africa needs an ‘Elon Musk’ kind of entrepreneur right now to start building the company that will transport Africa for the future.

It is simple: you can easily calculate how much extra solar electricity you’ll need to charge your car. Here’s an example: the 2014 Nissan Leaf, an all-electric vehicle, has a combined fuel economy rating of 30 kWh/100 miles – this means the Leaf requires 30 kWh of electricity to drive 100 miles. If you drive 25 miles on an average day, that means you’re using approximately 7.5 kWh of electricity per day – or just over 2,700 kWh of electricity in a given year.

South African Startup looking to disrupt workplace collaboration market in Africa

Connect-2-Me (C2Me) is a South African start-up founded in 2016 by Gary Swale, Ray Hayes, Eugene Theron and Lloyd Thompson – who were the previous owners of Knowledge Dimension, a company now own by IBM.

According to Gary Swale, the startup is a cloud-based business collaboration platform setup to removes barriers in work-space so that members of the workforce are engaged, empowered and in the process helping to transform the business.

“It creates an ecosystem that enables organisations to deliver meaningful and compelling value to people in and outside the organisation, through addressing gaps in communication, supporting responsiveness and driving innovation,”

“Many businesses continue to operate in silos, which compounds existing barriers to communication. Add to this, the disconnect in organisations between employees who are ‘online’ and those who aren’t, and an even larger rift in communication, productivity and efficiency is caused.”

Read: What is Cloud Computing?

“We are at a stage where we have proven the concept, both in terms of technology and customer acceptance, and would be open to holding discussions with parties who could assist with developing and growing the business from both a funding perspective as well as being able to open doors in terms of access to markets and customers,” says Gary.

Gary believes this could be an opportunity to create another South African success story.

The C2Me was developed in, and hosted in, IBM Bluemix, a cloud platform for developers to build and run modern apps and services. Hamilton Ratshefola, country GM for IBM SA, says Bluemix enables developers to launch quickly, iterate continuously and scale with success. he added that C2Me is a business partner to IBM and has a viable business model.

“However, before we brought them onto our Enterprise Development Programme, they did not have adequately skilled staff to enable them to scale up their business and elicit big deals,” Ratshefola points out.

Garry adds “We have successfully integrated selected IBM Watson services into the C2Me platform. So this is a South African world-class solution using state-of-the-art technologies.”

Watson is IBM’s artificially intelligent computer system is capable of answering questions posed in natural language. Watson wowed Tv viewers by beating the two best human contestants of a game in the Jeopardy show.

Read: Watson’s Sister Lucy is Growing Up With the Help of IBM’s Research Team

Source: ITWeb